The Devil's Gift

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XXIX

She swayed ominously, her new found strength and speed difficult to accept moments after being turned.

‘What happened?’ She said nervously, not daring to move again.

‘You became one of us. Now, I can truly explain who I am and what we are.’ I went into detail and explained exactly how the vampires were first created, who I was and what has happened during my time as clan-king. She looked as if she would interrupt at numerous points but I merely silenced her by raising my hand. She was doing well at following instructions. After I’d finished, I allowed her a moment in which she could let the information sink in.

‘God killed your children?’ She asked, her voice reaching an octave higher.

‘That’s correct and all these years I’ve been attempting to avenge them, a much more difficult task than it would first appear I assure you.’ I responded. She seemed somewhat sympathetic yet scared still.

‘My dear, I am not going to harm you, contrary to what my nature is and also to what Deus believes of me. I am simply a broken man, trying to fix the wrongs that have plagued me for over seven hundred years.’ I watched a tear roll down her cheek at these words that had evidently had an impact on her.

‘I’m sorry, it’s just difficult.’ She said, her voice cracking slightly.

‘I understand, you will adjust. Now, I want you to slowly walk to the tree to your right.’ I instructed, signalling to the overhanging branches of a large willow a few feet from her. She made an effort to walk to the tree but instead, her speed was unmatched by any human. ‘Again.’ I said. Over and over we practiced until she had learnt to keep her speed under control.

‘This was so difficult, I think I just need lighter steps.’ She announced after five minutes in silence.’

‘You’re doing great, now, I think we’re ready to take to the streets, remember, walk naturally and keep your eyes averted from anyone else you might meet. You’ve just been turned and so you shouldn’t feel the urge to feed for at least another few days, don’t worry.’ I said, answering the puzzling expression on her face. Of course, vampires had been recorded in history book for centuries, she’d have some degree of knowledge though most just believed we were a myth and I was only too happy to feed that rumour. We walked slowly down the streets, the need to feed was no longer haunting me though I had not drank the blood I needed.

We soon came to the border of the city where I paid no attention to the vampire at the gates and continued to stride past him.

‘Where are we going?’ Asked Isirith curiously.

‘We’re going home.’ I said simply.

‘I don’t have a home, I lived with my boyfriend but somehow I don’t think that will work out now.’ She said and for the first time since I met her, she gave a slight ringing chuckle. I could not help but smile, I’d saved the life of another and offered them a new chance at life.

‘Trust me, you’re not going to want to go there again for a while, no, I’m taking you to your new home.’ I told her. She lit up with happiness, the thought of a real home and someone that cares was a good boost to her mood. As soon as we’d reached about quarter of a mile from the town, I instructed her to run,

‘Keep up, if you can.’ I added with a wink.

‘I don’t think I can run.’ She said nervously.

‘Don’t think, feel, allow your instinct to take over, it will come.’ I told her and with that, I left her in a cloud of dust as I sped along the long pitted road before me. She soon caught up and was now running beside me, her eyes fixed on the path ahead with her face contracted with concentration. We kept running, I made sure to keep my speed to hers, I did not want her getting lost. I allowed her to fall behind a few paces and I took the lead, darting down the path, my eyes now trained on the shack before the forest. I signalled her to stop and I slowed to a light jog and then to a slow walk, waiting for Isirith to join me who stumbled up to my side.

‘Why did we stop?’ She asked politely.

‘You need to make sure you can always locate your way back, I’ve found this is a good way to ensure just that.’ I explained. ‘I’ve lately discovered this shack, and have since adjusted my route to and from the city, this shack here’ I pointed to the rotting wooden building to my right, ‘serves as a marker to indicate you are now entering the Romano Forest. The forest that encircles Castle Blackmoor, your new home.’ I informed her before she asked. She nodded, her attention completely devoted to my voice. ‘Good, then on we go.’ I said, leading a hand forward indicating her to go first.

‘So tell me, Roconn,’ she began to which I halted her.

‘When addressing me, you will do so in the correct form, you will address me as sire, or my lord, I am the ruling figure of the vampires, do not forget.’

‘I’m sorry my lord.’ She whispered quickly.

‘You didn’t know, it’s alright, you were saying?’ I asked.

‘Yes sire, it’s just I was wondering how so many vampires can live so close to the city without anyone having noticed?’ A good question, I thought to myself.

‘Ah, you see, over the centuries, my kind has made many appearances, hence the rumours and reports of blood-sucking demons I’m sure you’ve read about.’ She nodded in agreement. ‘As the reports began to circulate, I informed my coven that the humans had begun to suspect our true nature, which must not happen under any circumstance. So, I posted vampires in not only the guard, but every major business or organisation so if any rumours were to circulate, the vampires would ensure they were made a mockery of and discredited. Thus ensuring our continued existence in secret.’ I explained.

We proceeded to the gravelled path and she marvelled at the vast size of the castle that was now her home. The huge doors swung open of their own accord to admit us inside and then slammed shut again. We followed the corridor through the castle where I bade goodbye to Isirith at the living room who, nervously entered and then I made my way outside once more. There, as I had hoped, sat on the bench was Armaita who was still poring over the mysterious book and key, a sheaf of paper at her side which she constantly returned to in order to jot something down. It had been two weeks now since I first assigned her to the task of deciphering the strange symbols.

‘Tell me you’ve made some progress.’ I said as I strode up to her.

‘You’re in luck,’ she said, her face lighting up in the moonlight, ‘I know the significance of Agartha. Come, bring Sophia, I’m sure you’ll find this equally distressing as you will shocking.’ I found this not only spiked my curiosity, but also my worry that we were indeed going to lose the war. I quickly headed inside where I located Sophia once more in the art exhibit. The baby bump was now protruding quite far, this baby was growing fast. I couldn’t help but be overcome with longing to see my child, though I knew the danger was overwhelming.

‘It’s hard to believe, such a precious, innocent thing could cause so much turmoil.’ She said slowly, her hand resting on her stomach.

‘I know, but we’ll get through this I promise. Armaita has made some progress on the symbols, we’re to meet her in the library.’ Sophia nodded blankly and made her way over to me. I cradled her close for a moment before she looked up into my eyes, I stared back into her own, captured by her mesmerising beauty. I felt powerless to her, all the strength I had was nothing compared to the power she had over me.

‘Come on, we mustn’t keep her waiting’ She said with a half-smile. I begrudgingly agreed, not only was I hesitant to find out what she had to say, I didn’t want this moment to end. We walked hand in hand down the stairs and navigated our way to the library where we found Armaita waiting for us in front of a large bookshelf. We strode over to her and sat down at the table before her. She put the book down in front of us and took a seat herself.

‘Listen, this isn’t good, well it’s good that we now know why Agartha is so important but still, the reason why will put you all in danger.’ She said seriously. I felt my heart sink a little but pushed her still,

‘Why, what’s there?’ I said nervously. I looked to Sophia whose face was now sporting a solemn expression.

‘In this world, every force is balanced, good and evil, hot and cold, yin and yang. There are opposing forces of equal magnitude for everything, taking away one would plunge the world into chaos. Removing one is a catastrophic act which must not happen under any circumstances.’ Armaita said, her voice low and evident with panic.

‘I don’t see what this has to do with Agartha.’ I said, confused.

‘Don’t you see? God has created a weapon, one that will remove an opposing force, he plans to destroy each and every evil thing in this world from the common thief, to the leader of all evil, Lucia.’ I could not believe it, I felt myself feeling dizzy, no this could not be happening. I sunk my head into my hands as I attempted to absorb the information; it was quite a task. Sophia burst into tears beside me and I held her close.

‘I will not let him take our child Sophia, I swear it.’ Armaita too looked on the verge of tears.

‘How are we supposed to stop him, you cannot stop God, no one can.’ She sobbed.

‘Maybe we don’t have to, if we could just destroy the weapon.’ I mused.

‘Is there a way?’ Sophia asked Armaita, her voice heavy with sadness and hopeless longing.

‘I’m not sure.’ She replied gravely.

‘There must be something we can do to combat him, we can’t just lay down and accept our fate, do not ask me to.’ Sophia said in between steadying breaths.

‘Well, maybe there is a way. You see, Deus has one fatal flaw, one that he constantly overlooks.’

‘What is it?’ I asked eagerly.

‘His arrogance. He believes he is the strongest, most clever and dangerous force ever to exist, he believes his plans are completely fool-proof. But there is something he has overlooked, something that could well be his downfall.’ Sophia stared curiously at her, begging her to say more.

‘You see, with everything Deus has accomplished, there will always be the angels who can operate, change or do the things he has. Why? Because he pours his positive energy into everything he creates, meaning only those of pure heart and soul, an angel or himself, can even touch the things that evil cannot. Take this book for example, created by God, Sophia and I can read it, because we however disgraced, are angels.’ I was now beginning to see where this was going. ‘You will almost certainly not be able to touch whatever this item to destroy evil is, but that does not necessarily mean Sophia nor I will not be able to.’ I thought on this, it was too dangerous for Sophia, especially in her current state of pregnancy, to even risk touching this item.

‘I will accompany you into the depths of Agartha to destroy this weapon. We may be at odds regarding most things, but for mankind, this weapon needs to be destroyed and I fear we have little time left.’ So there was a scrap of hope to be salvaged from the crushing information that we had just learned.

‘We have no time to lose,’ I began, ‘if it’s true and the weapon exists, we have to move fast, he’ll likely strike quickly, it’s what I would do if I’d learnt the book containing my secrets had been stolen.’ Armaita nodded in agreement. ‘Sophia,’ I added, turning to look at her seriously, ‘I want you to stay here, for your own safety.’

‘Not a chance, this is bigger than just you and I, you’re going to need all the help you can get. If we truly have no chance, then our last days I will spend with you.’ She said sternly. Though I was adamant I did not want her in harm’s way, I could not deny her decision, it would be the same one I’d make in her shoes. I merely nodded.

‘Well, if we’re going to leave, we’d better do it now, before wasting any more time.’ We all agreed and rose from our seats and began to make our way to the living quarters where I was greeted by Broman, Markus, Iandu, Dale and Riodean.

‘My lord,’ Said Riodean with a large bow, ‘I have had word from my contacts back home, they’ve been attacked, the entire Russian fleet has been destroyed, preyed upon by those hybrid Cardinals’ He spat, his voice heavy with sadness.

‘As have the American clans, three that I’m aware of though more could be destroyed by now, they’re using our absence as a prime opportunity to attack!’ Dale piped up angrily. I did not react to their temper, their mood was perfectly understandable, I’d be just as devastated were it me.

‘My friends, I understand these are difficult times, there are ways of combating them, but a shouting match is not one of them. We’re going to end this war once and for all. I may not see any of you again, but should I succeed, Reyjak is to lead this clan and take over as ruler.’ I studied their blank faces briefly before heading into the living room where over two hundred pairs of eyes turned my way, including the piercing yellow pair that belonged to the hulking werewolf. I strode to the front of the room, feeling the eyes burn into the back of my head and turned to face the throng that was itching with tension.

‘My clan, my friends, my family,’ I began slowly, reminded slightly of the first encounter of God’s power, ‘I stand before you as man who has lived hundred lives and hundred more, who now begs your acceptance in understanding what I’m about to tell you.’ I paused and watched the effect it was having on the clan members who each wore similar expressions ranging from curiosity, to outright shock and utter disbelief. ‘It is with a heavy heart I regret to tell you the end is nigh, the war will soon be over. But before you go and celebrate there is something I must warn you all about.’ I ploughed on with my speech. ‘God is coming, he intends to rip the roots of the earth apart and eliminate all evil, from a lowly thief, to our creator, he will destroy this world before he sees it run by creatures whom he does not have control over, and he intends to do just that.’ A number of faces turned to horror as they processed my words and what it would mean for every vampire. In the corner I saw the stunning blue eyes of Isirith glaring at me with tears swimming about her lashes.

‘What do you mean, my lord?’ Asked one of the clan members, stocky and short he was.

‘I mean to say that he has created a weapon, more powerful than anything before, and it will destroy us all, but I, along with Armaita and Sophia, are to delve into the heart of Agartha where it’s hidden, and attempt to destroy it. Should we fail, Reyjak will lead you all. I am sorry my friends, it is unlikely we will return, and I wish you the best of luck. My one piece of advice to you should God unleash his fury upon us all, run, run as fast as you can, and then run faster, save yourselves, do not stay and fight, it is suicide.’ I said sadly. The room fell silent, the impact my words caused had a devastating effect, a number of the female vampires broke down into to tears whereas a number of the less warrior-style vampires had sported a mask of horror, unable to believe the words that I regretted saying. Though I wish I did not have to tell them, the truth was always the best option.

I looked to Sophia and to our baby who I noticed was twitching beneath her velvety skin.

‘It’s alright, we’ll go to the end together.’ Said Sophia, a stray tear rolling down her cheek which she brushed aside with the back of her hand. I leant in close and planted a soft kiss on her forehead and we began our descent to the front door uninterrupted except for Armaita who had finished saying an emotion goodbye to her fellow angels who all insisted on accompanying us. Armaita had told them they were needed here and to not follow which brought on a steady stream of tears coming from each angel.

Our footsteps echoed in the piercing silence that had fallen around us as we made our way down the corridor. In front, I reached out and pushed open the double doors that I felt sure I was never going to touch again. Before I left however, I turned to the courtyard and made my way over to Maria’s grave where we hovered over it.

‘Maria, I know it is not possible for my words to have any effect, but I feel the need to say this to you. I will most likely not return from my journey that takes me deep into the heart of Agartha, so I wanted to take a moment to say goodbye.’ I bowed my head respectfully and was grateful to see Armaita and Sophia had done the same. As we began to turn and leave the graveside, probably forever, Oceana came running up to us, her tear-streaked face shining in the moonlight.

‘My lord, I know you say you wish to go alone, but truth be told, I have no reason to stay, you’re like my father and I will not leave your side. At times, we may have been rash but it does not alter the fact I wish to go with you.’ She stated quite adamantly in her deep silky-green dress. Well, who was I to deny someone’s wish, I may be the leader of this coven, but the idea of having a close friend with me made me feel that bit better about having her around.

‘Of course, but we will likely not return.’ I said.

‘I understand, but if we’re going to die anyway, I’d rather go next to my family, and you are my family.’ She said with a slight smile, showing a set of bright white teeth. I couldn’t help but smile back, she was always so guarded and was constantly hidden behind a tough shield that she rarely lowered, but now, it’s as if there was no shield and I was truly looking upon the real Oceana, it was an Oceana I liked very much, a dear, close friend she was.

‘It is high time we left.’ I informed them. We began to leave the courtyard and was now crunching our way down the gravelled path toward the forest. I took a last look at the castle over my shoulder, I was reluctant to leave, it was always home to me. There in a top window overlooking the path was a dark man looming behind the window frame.

‘Goodbye my old friend.’ I said to Reyjak feeling very sentimental. I looked back around as we entered the forest, leaving the castle and all its hosts behind for what felt like forever.

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